Justice and the Law

£20 million inquiry into journalists for paying public officials for stories in disarray

UK's online magazine for journalists reports Old Bailey acquittals and no further actions by CPS against prosecuted journalists. Image: Press Gazette

UK’s online magazine for journalists reports Old Bailey acquittals and no further actions by CPS against prosecuted journalists. Image: Press Gazette

Operation Elveden, one of the Met Police’s most expensive inquiries, has seen the acquittal of four more journalists accused of paying public officials for tabloid stories.

The Crown Prosecution Service, CPS and Director of Public Prosecutions, DPP, have also decided to halt trials against nine other journalists.

This includes the retrial of former editor of the News of the World and Director of Downing Street Communications Andy Coulson.

At the Old Bailey, Sun journalists Brandon Malinsky, Neil Millard and Tom Wells were cleared of conspiracy to commit misconduct with a range of public officials, along with ex-Mirror reporter Graham Brough.

Mr Brough told the BBC he was greatly relieved that a professional reporter had not been criminalised.

Former Daily Mirror Reporter Graham Brough acquitted at the Old Bailey. Image: BBC. Click to report.

Former Daily Mirror Reporter Graham Brough acquitted at the Old Bailey. Image: BBC. Click through to report.

This follows the acquittal of 4 other senior journalists from the Sun last month.

Brandon Malinsky, one of the Sun journalists found not guilty today said:

I’ve had nearly two years of torture. I think the police and CPS have been a disgrace bringing my case and other cases to court. It’s a disgraceful waste of public money.

He added that he thinks the police should stop ‘persecuting innocent journalists’ and concentrate on criminals.

His view was echoed by former Sun Political Editor Trevor Kavanagh who told Sky News that it has been the longest and costliest criminal investigation in history to achieve so little.

Former Sun Political Editor condemning the investigation and prosecution of journalists for paying for stories. Image Sky News. Click through to report.

Former Sun Political Editor condemning the investigation and prosecution of journalists for paying for stories. Image Sky News. Click through to report.

Crown Prosecution Service and Director of Public Prosecutions. Image: CPS/DPP

Crown Prosecution Service and Director of Public Prosecutions. Image: CPS/DPP

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said it’s abandoning  nine out of 12 cases of journalists awaiting trial.

This follows an urgent review triggered when the Court of Appeal quashed the conviction of the first reporter to be found guilty.

The judges found that the juries should be told that in order to convict there had to be a higher threshold of damage to the public interest in disclosing information to journalists.

But the CPS is adamant it will continue prosecutions of at least three more journalists and other public officials who’ve received ‘corrupt payments.’

Guardian blogger and Professor of Journalism at City University Roy Greenslade says Operation Elevedon has been flawed and the CPS should have realised sooner.

The DPP, Alison Saunders, took part in a round of media interviews to defend the decision to prosecute.

She told Channel Four News they were dealing with an evolving law and that the actual cost to the CPS had been £1.3 million so far.

In an interview with Sky News she said it was unfair to compare the prosecutions to ‘a witch hunt.’

Alison Saunders, Director of Public Prosecutions interviewed on Sky News. Image: Sky News. Click through to interview.

Alison Saunders, Director of Public Prosecutions interviewed on Sky News. Image: Sky News. Click through to interview.

Background

Operation Elveden began during the Leveson Inquiry into newspaper ethics and criminal investigations over phone hacking at the News of the World, the Sun and other newspapers.

The police and CPS, have used a 13th century law called misconduct in public office to criminally prosecute journalists who pay public officials for information.

The Met Police received most of its evidence in the form of internal and external communications data provided on hard discs by the journalists’ employer News International- the owners of the Sun and shut down News of the World.

Operation Elveden has involved the arrest of 88 people mostly in dawn raids on family homes executed by teams of more than ten officers.

Of the 27 journalists facing court action there has been only one conviction as a result of a guilty plea.

Legal restrictions have been lifted on the identity of 40 year old Lucy Panton the former crime editor of the News of the World whose conviction was quashed by the Appeal Court.

She’d obtained information and written stories about the Jon Venables- the notorious child killer of 3 year old Jamie Bulger in 1993.

The police officers, civil servants and public officials receiving payment for stories have also been prosecuted and 21 convicted-many of them jailed.

None of them had been shielded by the freedom of expression concept of protection of journalists’ sources.

Juries refused to convict journalists in trials when they realised they’d been on trial for writing reports about favourable police treatment for celebrities, privileges for notorious criminals, and inadequate equipment for British troops in war zones such as Iraq and Afghanistan.

Met Police Statement 

The Met Police said it will ‘accept the review of current Elveden matters:’

The Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) has read the new guidance regarding the offences arising from Operation Elveden, misconduct in public office and conspiracy to commit misconduct in public office.

Elveden started as a result of documents voluntarily supplied by News International that revealed payments to public officials by some journalists. This followed similar revelations during parliamentary committees and the Leveson Inquiry

We acknowledge and accept the review of current Elveden matters, and we continue to work closely with the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) in respect of all outstanding cases under Weeting, Elveden and Tuleta.

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